Demi Lawrence is a freshman telecommunications journalism major and writes "Demi's Diems" for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Demi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The fence is 200 feet away, grass green and dirt a grayish brown from the rain that came down earlier. A man on a riding lawn mower does his work on the baseball field behind me. I’m sure he’s wondering what a girl is doing sitting in an empty dugout of a recreation softball field on a Monday afternoon.
I don’t come here all that often anymore, memories just collect like dust in my mind all at once. I hit a homerun on this field five years ago only to have my best friend hit one directly after me. Back-to-back home runs for 13-year-olds were generally unheard of, but we did it.
We beat our arch rival team on this field, too. A Sunday night at about 10 under the lights. We triumphantly received our trophies as quickly as possible before one of the biggest thunderstorms that I can remember hit this city.
A half mile behind me is my old high school varsity softball field. Of course that beautiful field is locked up, so I settled to sit in this dugout instead. The varsity dugout didn’t see as many triumphs as this one did, anyways. My dad likes to joke that I peaked at age 12. I hate to admit he’s right.
Instantly, I am taken back in time; I am 12 again, at my peak. I am catching, and I see the hit. I see the fielded ground ball. I see my teammate wind up to throw to me. I see a base runner barreling towards me out of the corner of my eye.
Ten seconds later, I am on the ground. I can’t move my left arm.
That’s it. That’s where the road ends for softball and I – all I had left was a separated shoulder and dirt on my uniform.
It’s silly, really. Any sport is just a game when you get down to it. But when you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on this “game," practice five nights a week for this “game," make friends who turn into family from this “game," is it really just a game anymore?
By the time I realized my left shoulder had been separated, the dirt had been whipped away. I was in the hospital as a complex brace held my arm in its socket. Doctors told me it would take five months. If only.
Coming to college, I know many people who quit a sport, cold turkey. Or maybe they did club, but it wasn’t the same as what they were used to. It sucks, guys. It sucks when the thing you grew up loving is suddenly not there anymore.
So, as I sit here, butt getting sore from this old metal bench, I’m overwhelmed with the good memories of back to back home runs and championship wins. But bad memories begin to seep in like water through a crack.
The worst memory, though, isn’t really a memory. It’s the opposite of that actually. It’s the fact that I can’t even remember my last at bat. You never remember things vividly enough with the intention of being able to recall them if it ends up being your last. We just don’t think like that.
I like to tell myself it was a clutch RBI to left center though, because that sounds nice. Sounds like I went out with a bang, at least.
The only thing I remember is the moment I got hurt the second time. I fell to the ground, I met my mom’s eyes through the fence and I screamed louder than I thought my lungs could ever manage to.
I remember knowing in that moment that I was done playing. I’d spend six months after that fighting that fact I knew deep down in my heart. But I knew my career was over, and that was the hardest pill to swallow.
Two shoulder dislocations. No surgery. Two years spent working towards an impossible reality. That. That’s the worst memory of them all, and that’s why I don’t come to these dugouts anymore.
But this isn’t about me. It’s about the loss of something I loved, and the fact that I’m reminded of that with every textbook that makes my backpack heavier on my shoulder and in every friend of mine I watch play in college from my dorm room futon.
It's about the pain that an athlete feels when they have their last at bat, their last goal, their last catch. Not even just athletes, it’s also about the last choir show, the last performance, the last time you picked up your guitar. It's about knowing you can’t get those moments back, about how those memories are just that – memories. Intangible. Gone.
Sports are just a game, yes, but softball made me who I am. I love softball, and I always will.
Many of my friends are playing Division 1 softball now, in fancy uniforms on TV. I am so endlessly proud of them. I cheer them on like we are all still on the same team. That doesn’t mean I don’t wish I was there with them, on the field with them.
They are all wonderful girls, the most loving and humble ones I have ever known. Alyssa at Saint Louis University. Janey at University of Charleston, West Virginia. Olivia, Kara and Jessica at Taylor University. Savanna at Florida State University. I could go on and on.
They’re great, phenomenal actually. And I know they are grateful and humble for their opportunities. I just find myself stuck somewhere between being happy for them and wishing I was still their leader, still their catcher telling them where to cut off to.
That’s the truth. It’s ugly and selfish and I am not proud of how I feel, but it’s the truth. And I know that if you left behind the sport that made you who you are today, or anything of definition to you for that matter, you know exactly what I am talking about.
You know how it eats at you every time you watch a game, whether it be on TV or in person. That no matter how hard you try to turn your love for playing into a love for spectating, you still find yourself with an overwhelming desire to give it one more shot.
But you know that’s not happening.
You will never step up to the plate or line again, never will swing the club or bat again. You’ll never put on your choir dress again or do that dance that set with the same people, the same way, again.
Sometimes, the past should just stay dead because ultimately you’ve got better things ahead of you.
I admit, an emptiness filled me when I stopped putting on a softball uniform once and for all. I had an identity crisis. Soon, I did find stuff to fill that void, one of which was journalism. Writing was the better thing ahead of me, my reason to let my past stay dead.
I filled the void. I didn’t make the void disappear, I just filled it.
The hole softball once occupied is still there, I cannot deny that. I filled it up, smoothed the concrete over to make a seamless finish, but concrete cracks.
I crack. You crack. We all miss it, that’s normal. That means you truly loved it. And I wish I had some magical words to tuck you in with that could change your life and make you stop missing your abandoned sport.
But I don’t. All I have to say is that I’m living it too, and I’m sorry.